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If I Ran the Zoo

Book review by
Peter Lewis, Common Sense Media
If I Ran the Zoo Book Poster Image
Dr. Suess imagines a better, brighter, zanier zoo.
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Dated racial and great-white-hunter stereotypes.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the cut-up verse skips like a step-dancing troupe, the creatures are crazily imaginative concoctions, and the narrator is amusing -- and enviable.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5 and 7 year old Written byJamie and James March 15, 2010

I loved it- now my kids do, too!

I have always loved Dr. Sueuss-all his books have a lesson-but my kids don't understand them yet. All I can say is that I love all the true child fantasy,... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 year old Written byChert July 29, 2009

Keep in mind it's from the 1950s...

The Minnow picked this out in the library the other day. The crazy creatures are fun, especially the elephant-cat. I had to stop after a bit and ask her how she... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Seuss's zoo is better and brighter than the ones we know, with its Joats and Lunks and Mulligatawnies from locales like the Desert of Zind and the Wilds of Nantucket. Young Gerald McGrew imagines the creatures he would put on display, the distant lands where he would track them, and the inventive means he would use to trap them.


Is it any good?

IF I RAN THE ZOO is a standard -- and by that meaning the standard -- Seuss joyride of verse and ridiculous creatures. Here is life lived as a fantastical experience, lit by an imagination that shimmers and bursts like fireworks. Though the animals are pure figments, Seuss transports readers into the adventure with Gerald McGrew as he globetrots in search of the best wild animals.

So evocative are the places that an 8-year-old rereading the book after an absence of three years announced "Russia!" when a snow-swept, spruce-darkened village of cupolas came into view. But Seuss stumbles as he dishes up some shockingly quaint verbal and visual racial commentary: "I'll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant / With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant," or the Indian chieftains whom Gerald will display along with the "scraggle-footed Mulligatawny," or the African porters. Now is as good a time as any to have a discussion about this racial typing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about zoos. What animals would you want to have in your zoo?

  • Do you see some dated racial stereotypes in the book? How have attitudes changed over time? How does the media reflect changing values?

Book details

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